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John Rolfe

Born: 1585
Birthplace: Norfolk, England
Died: 22-Mar-1622
Location of death: Varina Farms, VA
Cause of death: War
Remains: Missing

Gender: Male
Religion: Anglican/Episcopalian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Agriculturalist

Nationality: England
Executive summary: First Virginia tobacco baron, husband of Pocahontas

John Rolfe was an earlier American settler. His date of birth is unknown, but he was baptized on 6 May 1585 and came to the Colonies in 1610. He was one of many settlers sent by the Virginia Company of London, charged with finding ways to make the New World profitable, and in this assignment Rolfe was wildly successful: The native Virginia variety of tobacco, Nicotiana rustica, had been deemed too bitter for English customers' tastes, but in about 1612 Rolfe imported and began cultivating Caribbean tobacco, Nicotiana Tabacum. Ever since, tobacco has been the region's dominant crop.

His first wife died en route to the colonies, and Rolfe later married the Native Princess Pocahontas, who had been kidnapped and converted to Christianity. He returned to England with her, where they met with King James I and Sir Walter Raleigh and were greeted across England as celebrity-curiosities. Tragically, she contracted a disease for which she had no genetic immunity -- smallpox, some say, or pneumonia -- and died within months. Rolfe, now twice widowed, returned to Virginia where he served in several colonial administrative posts and married a third time. During a 1622 battle with Natives, his home was destroyed, and Rolfe is presumed to have perished, though his body was never found.

Through Thomas Rolfe, his son with Pocahontas, Rolfe's progeny extends through many generations of Virginia's most prominent families, including the Bollings, Randolphs, and First Lady Edith Wilson. The social stature of these families necessitated the insertion of a specific clause in Virginia's later laws against miscegeny, defining fourth- and subsequent generation descendants of Native Americans as legally White.

Father: John Rolfe (b. 1562, d. 1594)
Mother: Dorothea Mason Rolfe (b. 1559, m. 1582)
Sister: Eustace Rolfe (b. 1585, d. 1593)
Brother: Henry Rolfe (b. 1587)
Brother: Edward Rolfe (b. 1591)
Sister: Dorothy Rolfe (b. 1595)
Wife: Sarah Hacker Rolfe (m. 1608, d. 1612, one daughter)
Daughter: Bermuda Rolfe (d. infancy)
Wife: Pocahontas (Native princess, b. 1595, m. 5-Apr-1614, one son)
Son: Thomas Rolfe (colonist, b. 1615)
Wife: Jane Pierce (m. 1620, one daughter)
Daughter: Elizabeth Rolfe (b. 1620, d. 1635)

    Slaveowners
    English Ancestry


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